Wasáse – Taiaiake Alfred

Powerful book on indigenous resistance. Though very dense. I did not read the whole book but I learned a lot.
  • Government / Settler Culture
    • European philosophies have always been much less concerned about the search for truth than with providing intellectual covers for the exercises of brute power by white rulers.
    • the enemy is not the “white man” in racial terms, it is a certain way of thinking with an imperialists’s mind
    • The enemy imperialists are personified as those who are aware of their unjust power and informed of the effects of their choices, but still choose to do harm and commit rapacious crimes against people and the earth.
    • Settlers will react to such a movement in a personal, visceral, and emotional way; even those with little to lose, materially from the changes being promoted will defend their cherished delusions. The inherent conservatism of any human community is strengthened further in a colonial situation by manipulation by elites that have much to lose through any change in the status quo.
    • Audre Lorde: “Guilt is just another name for impotence, for defensiveness destructive of communication, it becomes a device to protect ignorance… the ultimate protection for changelessness.”
    • Dead Indians are secure because they do not oppose what the state does. Dead Indian cultures are good for the state because they are reduced to folklore, rather than forming a conception of the world, politics, and otherness.
  • Fear
    • Governmental power is founded on fear, which is used to control and manipulate us in many ways
    • Aung San Suu Ky… has said that, “It is not power that corrupts but fear.” To me, she means that the holder of power fears losing it, and the ones subject to power fear the courage of it.
    • The perpetrators know that it is wrong to steal a country and so deny it is a crime; the victims know that it is shameful to accept defeat lying down. Yet, complacency rules over both because the thought of what might come out of transcending the lies is too… fearsome.
    • Lying complacent in a narrow conception of the past and nearly paralyzed by fear in a constrained vision of the future, both the colonized and the colonizers have been forced to accept and live with a state of unfreedom. This is the most profound meaning of colonialism’s modern turn. Of course, this is made possible because the vast lie has been embedded in every aspect of our lives for so long as memory, as identity, and as political and economic relations of domination and exploitation.
    • Corruption in fact can be understood best as a kind of panicked grasping for control in the face of profound fear of losing what one has or the potential to get what you think you are due.
  • Revolution
    • A true revolution is spiritual at its core; every single one of the world’s materialist revolutions has failed to produce conditions of life that are markedly different from those which it opposed. Whatever the specific means or rationale, violent, legalist, and economic revolutions have never been successful in producing peaceful coexistence between people; in fact, they always reproduce the exact set of power relations they seek to change, rearranging only the outward face of power.
    • How you fight determines who you will become when the battle is over 
    • Political power is meaningless unless you control the purse strings. It’s the same all over the world. You have Third World countries with so-called political power, but who gives a hoot when they don’t control the resources within their own country? They have the same uneven trade relationship as always — everything comes here, to North America. That’s why there’s no revolution going on here: we’re too fat and happy. That’s the long and short of it, basically. Only when those Third World countries liberate themselves will things really change.
  • Peace
    • Some readers may find themselves confused by the seeming contradictions in my logic and question how “peace” can be the orienting goal of this warrior-spirited book, wondering if perhaps a concept like “justice” may be more to the point and truer to the spriit of the book that takes a war dance as its emblem. But justice as a liberator concept and as a would-be goal is limited by its necessary gaze to the politics, economics, and social relations of the past. However noble and necessary justice is to our struggles, its gaze will always be backward. By itself, the concept of justice is not capable of encompassing the broader transformations needed to ensure coexistence. Justice is one element of a good relationship; it is concerned with fairness and right and calculating moral balances, but it cannot be the end goal of a struggle, which must be conceived as a movement from injustice and conflict through and beyond the achievement of justice to the completion of the relationship and the achievement of peace. 
    • The old slogan, “No justice, no peace,” is a truism. We must move from injustice, through struggle, to a mutual respect founded on the achievement of justice and then onward towards peace. Step by step. Lacking struggle, omitting respect and justice, there can and will be no peace. Or happiness. Or freedom. These are the real goals of a truly human and fully realized philosophy of change.
    • Peace is hopeful, visionary, and forward-looking; it is not just the lack of violent conflict or rioting in the streets. That simple stability is what we call order, and order serves the powerful in an imperial situation.
    • The most common English-Kanienkeha translation for the word “warrior” is rotiskenhrakete, which literally means, “carrying the burden of peace.”
    • Without respect there is no peace.
    • What does peace mean to you?
      It’s when people’s minds are aligned — when your mind or the collective mind is unencumbered by grief or by suffering. Peace is what we strive for.
  • Reforms
    • There is no evidence that they have done anything to make but a very small minority of our people happier and healthier.
    • Reform… is what happens within an institution; whether it is successful or not, some of the old regime remains. Revolution, on the other hand replaces one system with another.
    • both the victim and litigant reflect the essential colonial process of civilization the Onkwehonwe, making us into citizens of the conquering states, so that instead of fighting for ourselves and what is right, we seek a resolution that is acceptable to and non-disruptive for the state and society we have come to embrace and identify with.
    • To fight genocide, we are told to arm ourselves and take vengeance upon the white man. To fight against economic oppression, we are told to be become capitalists and to live for money. To fight against unfair laws, we are told to become lawyers and change the system from within. None of these battles are our own! And none of them are capable of liberating us from colonialism with our Onkwehonwe spirits and identifies intact. They demand that we surrender our true selves to become what it is we are fighting agains, so that we may better it or defeat it.
      All of these submissive or foreign ways of facing colonialism are predicated on a dualism of one sort or another, locking us into a perpetual relationship with the force we are opposing. The paths open to us now in the aboriginal paradigm are incapable of removing us from the us-versus-them dialectic which is the fundamental defining feature of colonial relationships.
    • Aboriginalism: Settlers can remain who and what they are, and injustice can be reconciled by the mere allowance of the Other to become one of Us.
    • The approach to making change employed by aboriginal organizations is text-book perfect, if we were reading a primer on losing strategies.
    • Keeping in mind that the freedom of our nations, with the restoration of our people to their land and the preservation of the cultural heritage of our ancestors, is the goal — not the accumulation of material possessions and elevated incomes — we should question why it is that our people have stopped short of this goal and begun to adapt to the existing colonial power relations.
  • General philosophy
    • The Dalai Lama, in Ancient Wisdom, Modern World, has defined ethics as, “the indispensable interface between my desire to be happy and yours.”
    • How do we determine if something we are doing is wrong? We can talk our cue from Buddhist teachings: you are wrong when you consciously do something to cause unhappiness and harm to others for selfish ends.
  • Strategy
    • I believe there is a need for morally grounded defiance and non-violent agitation combined with at the development of a collective capacity for self-defense, so as to generate within the Settler society a reason and incentive to negotiate constructively in the interests of achieving a respectful coexistence.
    • Words can, in fact, be powerful shocks to the system and are capable of causing people to rethink their identity and their place within colonialism. But if they are to be powerful enough to cause crises in the contradictory consciousness of the colonized individual, the words must be dangerous and must push people outside the bounds of their comfort zone and beyond acceptability. The test of whether one’s words are contentious in this sense is this question: How much guts does it take to say what you are thinking and to be who you are?
      What separates the warrior from the cooperator is this dangerous engagement with power. Passivity shifts resistance to the less dangerous spheres that the dominant power and designated/created as areas for negation or reform — after all, it does not take any courage to negotiate, to advocate, or to reform. Rhetorical power is dangerously contentious when it seeks to provoke a response outside of the accepted, normalized, and sanctioned patters of interaction that form the colonial status quo. And to be truly dangerous, words and ideas must be convincing in their logic and so grounded in social, cultural, and political reality that there is imminent possibility of their affecting and shaping the actions of people.
    • C. Wright Mills “Movement from authority to manipulation”: No longer can the problem of power be set forth as the simple one of changing the processes of coercion into those of consent. The engineering of consent to authority has moved into the realm of manipulation where the powerful are anonymous. Impersonal manipulation is more insidious than coercion precisely because it is hidden; one cannot locate the enemy and declare war upon him. Targets for aggression are unavailable, and certainty is taken from men.
    • The natural inertia of people and the active opposition of organizations and persons serving the colonial authorities, both within and outside of our communities, virtually ensure that the first phase of contention will be in the construction of a movement, not in that movement’s conflict with the state.
    • We make the transition from warrior ethics to warrior, from normal to heroic, by placing ourselves in situations of dangerous contention and serious challenge to the imperial authority and to the adversaries of our people.
    • We are concerned here with clarity, with logic and rationality, and though the necessity of struggle may be difficult to accept on an emotional level and frighting in its implications, a strong, clear mind will recognize that struggle is a necessary conclusion.
    • Meaningful change, the transcendence of colonialism, and the restoration of Onkwehonwe strength and freedom can only be achieved through the resurgence of an Onkwehonwe spirit and consciousness directed into contention with the very foundations of colonialism. Onkwehonwe do need to challenge the continuing hateful conquest of our peoples, but not with a misguided rage channelled through the futile delusions of money, institutional power, or vengeful violence. Seriously, what is the best these can offer us? Social order and cultural stasis enshrined in law; mass conversion to the white man’s religion of consumerism; or killing a few whites. None of these reflect the ideals of peace, respect, harmony, and coexistence that are the heart of Onkwehonwe philosophies. We are taught to confront hate with the force of love and to struggle to live in the face of ever-present death and the bringers of it. But we must do it our way, or risk being transformed by the fight into that (and those) which we are struggling against.
    • Survival is bending and swaying but not breaking, adapting and accommodating without compromising what is core to one’s being.
    • It is crucial to understand the difference between courageously standing up to violence employed in the service of oppression and using violence to advance our own political objectives.
  • the causes of any political action
    • the causes of any political action are not the condition endured by people, who can always find ways to live with much deprivation, but the opportunities to and limits placed on their collective action.
    • [before more people are involved] three important things must be realized:
      • self-sufficiency: people must have access to the resources that will allow them to defy the state and the control of colonial institutions;
      • reorganization: new channels for people’s energy must be created for them to take part in contentious action against state structures and colonial power; and 
      • reculturation: people and communities must come to understand that cooperating with colonial authorities is wrong and must be acted against
    • All of these are at the same time material and spiritual processes, as much internal and psychological as external and strategic. Getting people moving, and moving together in the same direction, starts with waking them up or shaking them up. Awakening the people is both a spiritual movement and a political mobilization. Individual and collective militancy is generated and deepened when people are exposed to experiences by leaders who seek to provoke a heightened sense of reality though collective action. The leadership’s acts of resistance are designed and conducted to inspire and set an example, and to directly challenge the world-view and mentalities of the colonized people. Resurgence also involves changing social conditions so that even within unaltered minds, new rationales for action emerge.
    • The movement, if it is to be effective and sustainable, must be founded on strong people, and it must address in realistic ways three concerns: dispelling fear, providing a compelling rationale for sacrifice, redirecting youthful energy, and supporting the activities and role of warriors so that they are not alienated or drawn away from the movement because of practical concerns of providing for themselves and their families.
  • vision
    • The two elements that come to my mind are indigenous, evoking cultural and spiritual rootedness in this land and the Onkwehonwe struggle for justice and freedom, and the political philosophy and movement that is fundamentally anti-institutional, radically democratic, and committed to taking action to force change: anarchism.
    • Human beings haven’t changed in any fundamental way; what has changed is that we have been colonized.
      Colonization has changed everything about the way we live our lives. Our nations were made up of strong families that supported each other by intense extended affiliations and the supportive networks of clans. Our people put a priority on knowledge and indigenous intelligence; they were always thinking and constantly assessing the possibilities of growth and adaptation to new realities. They possessed spiritual power and were guided in the conduct of their lives by their indigenous customs and religious beliefs. They were unified in their communities and in their actions. This sense of unity was especially important to them because they understood that disunity degraded not only their existence as collectives but also their spiritual power as persons. Reciprocity and mutual obligation were the foundations of human interactions and of relationships with other element of creation. This created the kind of solidarity that allowed them to withstand the challenges of survival in harsh physical environments and against evil forces — that allowed them to survive intact as people and as nations.
    • When lies rule, a warrior creates new truths for the people to believe.
    • “Being Onkwehonwe” is living heritage, being part of a tradition — shared satires, beliefs, ways of thinking, ways of moving about in the world, lived experiences — that generates identities which, while ever-changing and diverse, are deeply rooted in the common ground of our heritages as original peoples.
    • When we say to the Settlers, “Give it back,” we are talking about them giving up the country and moving away? No. Irredentism has never been the vision of our peoples. When we say “Give it back,” we’re talking about Settlers demonstrating respect for what we share — the land and its resources — and making things right by offering us the dignity and freedom we are due and returning our power and land enough for us to be self-sufficient.
    • Restitution is purification. It is a ritual of disclosure and confession in which there is acknowledgement and acceptance of one’s harmful actions and a genuine demonstration of sorrow and regret, constituted in reality by putting forward a promise to never again do harm and by redirecting one’s actions to benefit the one who has been wronged.
    • Restitution, as a broad goal, involves demanding the return of what was stolen, accepting reparations (either land, material, or monetary recompense) for what cannot be returned, and forging a new socio-political relationship based on the Settlers state’s admission of wrongdoing and acceptance of that responsibility and obligation to engage Ownkwehonwe people’s in a resolution-reconciliation peace-building process.